Gleaner Company Ltd and Another v Abrahams: PC 14 Jul 2003

Punitive Defamation Damages Order Sustained

(Jamaica) The appellants challenged a substantial award of damages for defamation. They had wrongfully accused a government minister of corruption. There was evidence of substantial financial loss. ‘For nearly sixteen years the defendants, with all the prestige and resources at their command, have doggedly resisted the attempts of Mr Abrahams to clear his name. They maintained their allegations far beyond the point when it became obvious that they had no evidence to support them.’ Damages awarded by a jury were to be respected, and in this case the appeal was denied.
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘. . the damages must be sufficient to demonstrate to the public that the plaintiff’s reputation has been vindicated. Particularly if the defendant has not apologised and withdrawn the defamatory allegations, the award must show that they have been publicly proclaimed to have inflicted a serious injury.’
Reference to awards in personal injury cases in defamation cases is controversial and is a matter on which different opinions may be held. Lord Hoffmann identified significant differences between damages for personal injury and damages for defamation, which give rise to the difficulty.

Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Millett, The Rt. Hon. Justice Tipping
[2003] UKPC 55, Times 22-Jul-2003, Gazette 18-Sep-2003, [2004] 1 AC 628, [2003] 3 WLR 1038, [2003] EMLR 3, (2003) 63 WIR 197
Bailii, PC
England and Wales
CitedMedcalf v Mardell, Weatherill and Another HL 27-Jun-2002
The appellants were barristers against whom wasted costs orders had been made. They appealed. They had made allegations of fraud in pleadings, but without being able to provide evidence to support the allegation. This was itself a breach of the Bar . .
CitedCassell and Co Ltd v Broome and Another HL 23-Feb-1972
Exemplary Damages Award in Defamation
The plaintiff had been awarded damages for defamation. The defendants pleaded justification. Before the trial the plaintiff gave notice that he wanted additional, exemplary, damages. The trial judge said that such a claim had to have been pleaded. . .
CitedRookes v Barnard (No 1) HL 21-Jan-1964
The court set down the conditions for the award of exemplary damages. There are two categories. The first is where there has been oppressive or arbitrary conduct by a defendant. Cases in the second category are those in which the defendant’s conduct . .
CitedJohn v MGN Ltd CA 12-Dec-1995
Defamation – Large Damages Awards
MGN appealed as to the level of damages awarded against it namely pounds 350,000 damages, comprising pounds 75,000 compensatory damages and pounds 275,000 exemplary damages. The newspaper contended that as a matter of principle there is no scope in . .
CitedSutcliffe v Pressdram Ltd CA 1991
A 600,000 pound compensatory award was set aside by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it must have been made on the wrong basis, almost certainly so as to punish Private Eye. The Court of Appeal could not substitute its own award for that of a . .
CitedRantzen v Mirror Group Newspapers (1986) Ltd and Others CA 1-Apr-1993
Four articles in the People all covered the same story about Esther Rantzen’s organisation, Childline, suggesting that the plaintiff had protected a teacher who had revealed to Childline abuses of children occurring at a school where he taught, by . .
CitedKiam v MGN Ltd CA 28-Jan-2002
Where a court regards a jury award in a defamation case as excessive, a ‘proper’ award can be substituted for it is not whatever sum court thinks appropriate, wholly uninfluenced by jury’s view, but the highest award which a jury could reasonably . .
CitedMcCarey v Associated Newspapers Ltd (No 2) CA 1965
References to damages awards in personal injury actions were legitimate in directing a defamation jury on quantum. . .
CitedAustralian Consolidated Press Limited v Uren PC 24-Jul-1967
The Board declined to interfere with the decision of the High Court of Australia not to review its jurisprudence on exemplary damages: ‘[I]n a sphere of law where its policy calls for decision and where its policy in a particular country is . .
CitedTolstoy Miloslavsky v United Kingdom ECHR 19-Jul-1995
The applicant had been required to pay andpound;124,900 as security for the respondent’s costs as a condition of his appeal against an award of damages in a defamation case.
Held: It followed from established case law that article 6(1) did not . .

Cited by:
CitedGeorge Galloway MP v Telegraph Group Ltd QBD 2-Dec-2004
The claimant MP alleged defamation in articles by the defendant newspaper. They claimed to have found papers in Iraqi government offices after the invasion of Iraq which implicated the claimant. The claimant said the allegations were grossly . .
CitedCollins Stewart Ltd and Another v The Financial Times Ltd QBD 20-Oct-2004
The claimants sought damages for defamation. The claimed that the article had caused very substantial losses (andpound;230 million) to them by affecting their market capitalisation value. The defendant sought to strike out that part of the claim. . .
CitedAdelson and Another v Associated Newspapers QBD 19-Feb-2008
Complaint was made that an article was defamatory of the owner of Manchester United. The defendant now argued that the game was not worth the candle. The costs vastly exceeded any possible recovery, and it had openly offered vindication, and that . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Damages

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.184660